by Jessica Winterbottom, May 2006
The Representation of Money in, Elizabeth Sarah Villa–Real Gooch’s Novel’s; Fancied Events: or, The Sorrows of Ellen; A Novel (1799) and Sherwood Forest: or, Northern Adventures; A Novel (1804)
Elizabeth Sarah Villa-Real Gooch was born to a wealthy family but found her circumstances greatly changed after she was accused of improper conduct in the early years of her marriage. She was ‘unprotected by husband or family’ (Todd, 1987:138) after her marriage ended and she had to find ways of supporting herself financially. This was not an easy task for any woman in the 18th Century due to the patriarchal society in which men dominated the work force and ‘Women found themselves vulnerable as economic beings’ (Copeland, 1995: 17)
For the working woman the jobs were hard and the wages low. The ideal situation for a woman was, to be born into a wealthy family and to secure this life style by marrying an equally wealthy man. However as Gooch proves this did not always ensure a stable future.
In the 18th Century the breakdown of a marriage ‘usually left the woman socially ostracized and destitute’ (Todd, 1987:7) and this was what Gooch was faced with. The dismissal of a divorce restricted her from remarrying, rendering her dependant on a very small yearly settlement fee from her marriage, illicit relationships with various men, loans from creditors and writing as a means of financial support.
Gooch had estates but they were in the care of a male trustee who worked on behalf of her husband. ‘If the trustees were dishonest, or if they simply refused to act, a woman could be left with no recourse at all.’ (Copeland, 1995:17) as was the case with Gooch, who never received her share of the estates sale.
A preface was written to give an explanation and often a justification for what they have written. It tends to be the case that: ‘prefaces almost invariably declare sad necessity of one sort or the other’ (Todd, 1987:8) as does Gooch’s.
Gooch makes it clear that she feels writing as a career is vastly undervalued and underpaid. In the preface Gooch describes the hardships that she and other authors have to contend with; the burden of ‘poverty’ as it ‘treads upon the heels of genius’ (Gooch, Sherwood Forest, viiii) She is vocal in her opinion that society is neglectful of the ‘broken-hearted, worn out, Author!’(ibid, xi) who she feels is not justly rewarded for the public service they provide. Writing was a predominantly low paid occupation but undertook by many in need of money because of the upsurge in demand for fiction in the 18th century. The majority of ‘the demand came form the middle classes and more particularly still, from women.’ with book sales reportedly ‘quadrupling.’ (Campbell, 1987:26)
In and out of debtors jail Gooch understood the desire for a steady income to relieve economic pressure. The effects of money on Gooch’s life are seen in the representation of money in her writing and in its relation to the characters.
This essay will focus on two of Gooch’s novels: Fancied Events: or, The Sorrows of Ellen; A Novel (1799) and Sherwood Forest: or, Northern Adventures; A Novel (1804) and their representation of money in the 18th Century.
The essay will explore how family, heritage and status are represented in both novels, and the different attitudes and principles towards money. The effect of these differing principles on the children will be examined and the impact it has on shaping their future.
The significance of money will be addressed for those women who rely on yearly incomes and the pivotal role money plays in proposals, marriage, separations and divorces.
The relationship between money and lifestyle will be explored, its association with urban and rural life, debts and jail. Continuing on from this will be a comparison of different nation’s attitudes to money, gambling and value systems.
Finally the overall representation of money in the two novels will be examined including the correlation between, rank, wealth and moral fibre of characters portrayed. Throughout the essay these points will be looked at in their historical context.
In Sherwood Forest, Shelford’s daughter’s the Woodstock girls, who are concerned about their yearly allowance being a mere £5000 each, are not to be taken seriously. They are more than sufficiently provided for, being at the top end of the competence scale, a part of ‘the wealthy gentry’ (Copeland, 1995:32)
On the other hand, Ellen the heroine in Fancied Events who receives a mere £20 from her anonymous father is at the bottom end of the scale with the ‘laboring poor’ (Copeland, 1995:24) However whilst it is a small amount it is enough to pay for her education as it is intended. Notably Ellen later has another benefactor through Captain Boaden who affords her an extra £80 on top of the £20 a year she receives. This would make her a little more comfortable but by no means at financial ease.
‘The key to a woman’s survival is the possession of a spendable income.’ (Copeland, 1995:38) This is evident when Ellen is alone in Switzerland and the payments fail to come. Ill with worry, her possessions are stolen and she cannot afford to pay her board. Ellen is totally reliant on this yearly money and without it she is at the mercy of stranger’s hospitality. Illustrating how, ‘a woman without access to cash might have no place at all.’ (Copeland, 1995: 37).
Gooch herself had a turbulent affair with money and whilst she was born a wealthy woman, after her separation from her husband, her settlement fee was just £200 a year. This was reduced to £150 for a period of time because her husband said more money was needed to put the children through school. ‘Depending on the social aspirations £200 may be either good or bad’ (Copeland, 1995:28) For Gooch’s life style it was clearly insufficient as she ends up in debtors jail more than once and on one occasion for debts of over £300.
In Fancied Events, Ellen's unknown parentage is essential to her characterisation because it means she does not have a fixed place in society. Whilst described as 'a child of misfortune' (Gooch, Fancied Events, Vol.1:29) because of her precarious heritage, she is non-the-less relatively fortunate in her upbringing. The little known of her mother is that she conceived Ellen through an adulterous affair and had she been raised by her, Ellen would have been stigmatised with her mother’s disgrace.
Ellen is fortunate in that she has the annuity settlement agreed by her father of twenty pounds a year for her to be educated. An education was a privilege that a girl from a poor family was unlikely to receive, as even the education of middle class women was a fairly new phenomenon in the late 18th Century. It is at school that Ellen becomes aware of class differences, as she 'is mixing with the children of different lairds in the neighbourhood' and she starts to acquire 'loftier ideas than were consistent with the humble inhabitant of Duncan's cottage' (Gooch, Fancied Events, Vol.1:29) Not knowing her biological parents status she begins to get ideas of having a 'nobler station' than her current one.
The wealthy girls ignore Ellen because she is poor and Ellen is envious of the girl’s carriages. To have a nice carriage was a symbol of affluence and it occurs again in Sherwood Forest when Jane Lovell makes a point of driving around town in her carriage to give the impression of wealth.
The beginning of Ellen’s misfortunes can be linked to her teenage years and her desire to be like the people with status and money. Ellen could be construed as greedy however, she is portrayed as a sympathetic character and the narrator explains she was just innocent and naive.
The relationship between wealth and status is especially evident in Sherwood Forest when Gooch sets up a visible contrast between two families who view and use money to different ends. Gooch critiques the ostentation of the new money lords by comparing them with an old-fashioned baronet family.
The baronet family are the MacDonalds, a middle class family, originally from Scotland they are; of moderate wealth and inhabit Sherwood House, a temperate sized, traditional style property. The head of the family is Sir Malcolm MacDonald who takes pride in his ancestry. He is described as a kind and generous man and his wife Lady MacDonald a dignified, gentlewoman.
Lord Shelford's house in contrast to the MacDonald's is set on a large estate and of the 'first style' (Gooch, Sherwood Forest, Vol.1: 21), a modern building. Shelford is 'a new-made Lord' (ibid, Vol.1: 42) descending from a servant who was said to have achieved his peerage through corrupt and scandalous means. He bought his title rather than inheriting it and therefore in the eyes of MacDonald he is not as respectable as an ancient baronet.
With these characters Gooch is showing the snobbery that existed between the middle classes and the new money lords. There is a battle of dignity and status being played out between these characters. They show how the boundary between the classes was blurred and the old British traditions are being challenged by the new 'continental' influence. Whilst MacDonald represents the traditional British values Shelford represents the continental; his wine, food and furniture are described as being from the continent. Shelford is being set up as the outsider but also as a sign of how the classes were being redefined through money instead of heritage. He is the promoter of the 'fallacy of ancestral dignity' (ibid, Vol.1: 68) and an example of the power of money and how it could buy a person status.
The children of these two families are products of their circumstances and whilst neither family is poor they have vastly different values in relation to money. This is evident when Shelford's daughters talk about their marriage prospects in front of the MacDonald girls. They have two fears and that is that they will either end up; 'dieing spinsters' or will have to marry 'low-bred savages' (Gooch, Sherwood Forest, Vol.1: 28). Marrying well is their main aim in life as it was for most upper-class women in the 18th century. There was a negative stigma attached to being a ‘spinster’ and even more so to being poor.
Shelford's daughters are shown to be particularly snobbish, bragging that Emily has turned down Sir Henry Turner because he is only a baronet. Elizabeth views herself and her sisters 'horridly poor' (ibid, Vol.1: 29) and then explains this is because they are to receive £5000 a year. Clearly this is a vast amount and Gooch is critiquing the frivolous and flippant nature of some of the wealthy girls who did not know the value of money.
Lord Palethorpe, the only son of Lord Shelford is ridiculed for his outlook on life and the frippery with which he spends his father's money. The ball Lord Shelford holds is in celebration of Palethorpe’s return from 'la grande tour', an extension of his education and supposed cultural development, a luxury only the wealthy could afford to indulge. When he visits the MacDonald's residence he is shown to be shallow and arrogant. He is asked about the 'beauties of Rome’ (ibid, Vol.1: 51) and in response talks about the women he encountered there. This compels Malcolm MacDonald's fear of the degeneracy of the Englishman; a common worry in the 18th century, brought about by the emergence of a consumer revolution and the fashionable world. This will be discussed in more detail later in the essay.
MacDonald believes that the 'very race of Englishmen has dwindled in the past generation' (ibid, Vol.1: 57) and views the notion of 'a grande tour' as an excuse for men to lose everything to gambling and an excessive lifestyle. He says they then return 'pale, squalid and emaciated' and 'marry the daughter of a wealthy citizen, who is delighted to purchase a title at the expense of her happiness, her health and her fortune' (ibid, Vol.1: 58) Notably Palethorpe's disreputable character is contrasted with that of Lady MacDonald and Maria who return during his visit having been out helping the poor.
The MacDonald family are shown to be fallible, and Maria’s secret marriage to a man of a lower status shows how Malcolm MacDonald’s principles are inconsistent.
The hypocrisy lies in the fact that the offer is from non other than Lord Shelford, the man he has scorned and berated because he achieved his money through dishonest means and so he has no proud heritage. In the end it comes down to money even for the proud, worthy Malcolm MacDonald, who it unfolds, would relent on his principles if it came at a high enough price.
Money played an important role in courtship and matrimony in the 18th Century and this is illustrated through a range of characters in Gooch’s novels. As touched upon earlier Shelford’s daughters are consumed by their wealth and the effect it could have on their future in terms of prospective husbands.
Middle class and aristocratic women did not work and therefore they were dependent on their father’s and subsequently if they married, their husbands wealth. The fortune and status of a woman’s family played a vital role in the spectrum of proposals she would receive from men. The wealthier they were the higher the chance of marrying ‘well’ (in the financial sense) and the reverse was true for the poorer woman. This is seen in Fancied Events, with Boaden’s scepticism of Ellen’s prospects of marrying well, because as he says, she is: ‘a woman who has neither the distinctions of birth, fortune, nor connections’ (Gooch, Fancied Events, Vol.1: 152)
Gooch illustrates that there was a pressure on women to marry into a wealthy family not only for themselves but also for the sake of their family. Gooch portrays Anna in Sherwood Forestwith a surprising amount of empathy in view of her being an adulterous woman. This empathy is because she was married at a very young age, ‘forced into it by the worldly caution of her parents.’ Anna was from a poor family, who desired her to be married for wealth rather than for love. Her parents: 'approved the benefit, but disliked the benefactor’ (Gooch, Sherwood Forest, Vol.1:183) and they encouraged her ‘to ride the social escalator’ (Copeland, 1995:22)
Whilst Anna would not have been a character that would have been overtly sympathised with by a contemporary audience, her circumstances for marriage may have been. For Anna her marriage is treated by her parents as a business deal as they become blinded by the desire for money.
There is a further negative dimension to courtship and money in that the wealth of a woman could attract and leave the woman vulnerable to advances by men interested solely in acquiring their fortune. ‘Hence arise the very many unhappy marriages, that, for the sake of interest or of gold, prostitute the laws’ (Gooch, Sherwood Forest, Vol.3: 31) Being a wealthy woman had its risks, as a woman’s wealth was an attractive incentive for men to make their acquaintance. Gooch herself alleged it was her wealth that attracted her husband-to-be William Gooch.
In Fancied Events, Mrs Montgomery a wealthy, widower, is easily manipulated into marrying the vile Mr Shark. It is not a happy marriage and is based on Shark’s need for her money because he has debts.
In Sherwood Forest Jane Lovell’s divorce leaves her financially independent with a settlement of £500. In view of the competence scale this would have been a respectable sum and Mr Lovell warns her that her income will make her a target for men. Jane is excited by the prospect of being a woman with disposable money and she does not appropriately accord herself in society. Her loose behaviour attracts the attention of Mr Stafford who is solely interested in ‘a marriage with a rich heiress.’ (Gooch, Sherwood Forest, Vol.3: 32-33) However his interest is short lived when he realises that she is still married and he could end up involved in; ‘divorces, damages and imprisonment’ (ibid, Vol.3: 58) A divorce was not an easy process and if the woman was seen to be unfaithful this would lead her and the man she is having an affair with accountable for damages.
There is an interesting parallel that Gooch draws between money and the ‘fashionable world.’ The fashionable world is the exclusive hub of society in the towns and cities, where people with money enjoy a fast paced style of life. It signalled the beginning of ‘the consumer revolution in the eighteenth century’ (Campbell, 1987:23) as ‘men pursue “luxuries” where they had previously bought “decencies” and “decencies” where they had previously bought only “necessities”. (ibid, 21) People were beginning to be able to afford to buy for the sake of fashion, where before they had to be seen to be more prudent.
Whilst the MacDonald’s confess they shy away from the fashionable world, the Shelford’s thrive in it, moving to London during the winter to enjoy city life. ‘London was the geographical and social centre of fashion’ (Campbell, 1987:22) and those living in the country were the last to be affected by it.
Ellen the heroine of Fancied Events goes through a physical transformation when she is taken to Edinburgh for the first time, as her country image clashes with city style, as illustrated in her comment: ‘He observed the rusticity of my appearance, and went out to provide me with what was fashionable’ (Gooch, Fancied Events, Vol.1: 95) Ellen is immediately influenced by the fashionable world and the desire to reflect the image of wealth in her appearance. She also experiences the theatre for the first time in the city and this was becoming increasingly popular in the 18th century; another ‘non-essential’ activity. (Campbell, 1987:26)
Walter the ‘hero’ of Sherwood Forest has his first experience of uncharitable and hostile behaviour when he is at university in the city. Little detail is given about his city lifestyle other than it requiring him to borrow money. Walter is unable to repay his debts and he is put in debtor’s jail. He concludes it; ‘is not for a humble forester, like myself, to aspire to them’ (Gooch, Sherwood Forest, Vol.1: 149) the fashionable men, in the fashionable city, who are ‘so far misled by fashion’ (ibid, Vol.1: 157) He resolves to live the rest of his life alone in the forest.
Debtors jail also features in Fancied Events and in the 18th Century ‘the world of credit with its ever-present threat of prison’ (Copeland, 1995:4) was a major part of many people’s lives. Having been in jail herself for debts Gooch is sympathetic to those in similar circumstances, and notably it is both Walter and Ellen the hero and heroine who end up in debtors jail.
In the preface to Sherwood Forest Gooch writes an empathetic description about prison as ‘the asylum, and often the grave, of those who have most largely contributed to public amusement.’ (Gooch, Sherwood Forest, x) She is keen to make a point of illustrating that the uncompromising punishment of jail is not always appropriate for a crime such as debt. Especially in view of how easy it was to acquire a loan and how widespread it was to owe creditors.
Ellen’s debt is ‘unknowingly contracted with My Lands…..’ (Gooch, Fancied Events, Vol.1: 197) and is then used to bribe her into marriage. Ellen’s refusal to agree to this blackmail lands her in jail. Money is used as a weapon against Ellen despite her not being an instigator in receiving the debt. Her poor financial position is taken advantage of and she is made to choose either; marriage to a conman or debtors jail. Fancied Events is not strictly gothic but its concern with gothic troupes such as; ‘the pressing dangers to women from debt: harassment, humiliation, confinement.’ (Copeland, 1995:7) can be seen in Ellen’s time in prison.
The ease with which a person can incur a debt highlights the vulnerability of people without money. Gooch shows that debt is not necessarily a reflection on that person’s character but more on the person who loans the money and does so with the intention of taking advantage.
In Sherwood Forest, Mr Walterton, Walter’s father and Mr Shaftoe are characters that further illustrate the cynicism with which the city is viewed and its negative association with money and corruption. Both these characters are conned out of their money by greedy people in power. Walterton and Shaftoe are both disgusted by this corruption and they both retreat to the countryside to get away from the money obsessed world and the ‘rapacity of man’ (Gooch, Sherwood Forest, Vol.1: 161).
The ‘fashionable world’ is not exclusive to Britain and Gooch illustrates that it was a ‘Western European’ phenomena as she portrays French fashionable society too.
As mentioned earlier in the essay, in Sherwood Forest there is a debate raging between the Shelford’s and the MacDonald’s about continental customs, values, foods and furniture versus the traditional British equivalent. There was the opinion that anything from France was ostentatious and concerned with appearing expensive, a sign of the emergence of materialism in society.
Shelford’s dinner party with the ‘French servants, French cookery, and French wines’ (Gooch, Sherwood Forest, Vol.1: 71) is described by MacDonald as an example of ‘modern ostentation, dignified by the name of hospitality’ (ibid, 70) MacDonald’s view represents the general consensus about French customs by the ‘true-born Englishman,’ (ibid, 71) in the 18th Century.
This patriotism for British-ness extended into customs and manners. Whilst Britain boasted strict morals and modesty in women, they accused the French of being the antithesis; with loose women and gallant men.
Jane Lovell’s stepmother in Sherwood Forest is a prime example of how French women were typically portrayed in the 18th Century and further more: ‘as exemplifying what must at all costs be avoided in Britain’ by women (Colley, 1994:251) Jane’s unladylike behaviour is attributed to her being raised with, ‘The pernicious maxims’ (Gooch, Sherwood Forest, Vol.3: 23) of her father’s French mistress, Mademoiselle Rosine. Rosine is blamed for instilling ‘into her young mind ideas so inconsistent with authority and restraint’ (ibid, Vol.3: 47).
Frenchwomen were not seen as suitable role models, viewed by the British as: ‘too vain, too frivolous, too self-indulgent, too prone to sensuality to be the model for rational and modest womankind.’ Mary Wollstonecraft gave this description in the late 18th century. (Mary Wollstonecraft ‘A vindication of the rights of women’, in The Works of Mary Wollstonecraft, in Colley, 1994:251)
It was seen as important for girls to be raised by a woman of virtue and modesty, the ideal being Lady MacDonald who was ‘every way qualified to instruct her daughters.’ (Gooch, Sherwood Forest, Vol.1: 18) Mademoiselle Rosine is not seen as suitable role model because she is firstly a mistress and secondly she is happy to be so, her relaxed attitude to sex and relationships was seen as typically French.
In 1783 John Andrews; critic, commentator and instructor on female conduct in society expressed views typical of many people in England in the late 1700’s. He wrote in his book, Remarks on the French and English Ladies that ‘women of England had more ‘modesty’ than those of France. While the fashionable Frenchwoman coquets with “a multitude of admirers” and cares for no one very much’ (Andrews, in Yeazell, 1984:40) Both the Comtesse and Jane Lovell’s French stepmother are shown to behave like this.
Not only did French women take an active role in courtship but they were also a dominant presence in gambling. Ellen is introduced to the ‘fashionable gaming table’ (Gooch, Fancied Events, Vol.2: 64) in Paris and it is through gambling that Ellen becomes once more acquainted with debt, bribery, lies and deceit.
Ellen determines to quit gambling because she feels it is for those with; ‘weak minds and corrupt hearts’ and further more as a woman it is detrimental to her femininity: ‘every female gamester must sacrifice much of that feminine softness and delicacy which are the sweetest characteristics of the sex’ (ibid, Vol.2: 129)
Gooch critiques gambling by describing it as unfeminine and dominated by corrupt people. Only those with money can afford to gamble, as only they can afford the consequences of losing. She illustrates that money is valued by those without it and taken for granted by those with it.
Gooch shows Ellen’s time spent in France is a learning curve and a lesson to other girls who are attracted by the fashionable world of money and gambling. Ellen is tempted by the fashionable city but she soon discovers that its luxurious appearance hides a corrupt world of cheating and scandal. Mesnil commends Ellen on her conduct in Paris as she has been introduced into a world that: ‘however fashionable, is not the less dangerous’ (Gooch, Fancied Events, Vol.2: 151)
Ellen examines her time in France and determines that: ‘The result was not so satisfactory as might have been wished.’ In Scotland Ellen had participated in ‘intellectual felicities’ whilst in Paris she has experienced ‘fluttering gaieties’ (Gooch, Fancied Events, Vol.2:136)
Gooch illustrates that money is associated with the fashionable world, and that the fashionable world is associated with corruption and greed. The portrayal of the fashionable world shows that the moneyed world is not only dishonourable, but also frivolous and materialist.
In the opening chapter of Fancied Events: or The Sorrows of Ellen; A Novel, the narrator sets apart the two extremes of wealth in society lamenting how life is 'pleasurable to the thoughtless.../ (yet) bitter to those who, houseless and unsheltered' (Gooch, Fancied Events, Vol.1:1) lead an entirely different life. Gooch has been described as a writer whose sympathy lies with ‘beggars and other unfortunates’ (Todd, 1987:138) and whilst Fancied Events and Sherwood Forest do not specifically have any ‘beggars’ or ‘unfortunates’ in them, Gooch’s primary concern and sympathy does lie with the ‘under-dogs’ in her novels.
In Fancied Events, the Duncans raise Ellen as their own child. They are characterised as being poor and humble yet honest and respectable. Gooch often draws a link between a person’s wealth and their nature. There is the occasional exception but predominantly she portrays the poorer characters as more selfless and the wealthier ones as greedy and corrupt. In the 18th Century to be poor was to be at the bottom of society’s hierarchy and looked down upon as inferior by those of more wealth. Money is often the weapon used against the honest, poorer character, but their acquiring money at the end sees a happy resolution.
The ‘villains’ of both books are never repentant, nor do they ever redeem themselves. They are the characters that take advantage of people less fortunate and less powerful than themselves, purely for the sake of money. The 18th century was not only a patriarchal society, but also a hierarchical, materialist one. Women were powerless against male-dominated laws, and the poorer person was powerless against the wealthy.
This is immediately evident in Sherwood Forest with Walter’s father’s experience of injustice. Conned out of his money by the corrupt government on his arrival into England, his complaint reaches the King but his case is ‘referred to the Board, the principal members of which were the very men who had committed the fraud.’ (Gooch, Sherwood Forest, Vol.1: 88) He is rendered powerless against this corruption.
Likewise his son Walter is also subject to injustice because of his status. Walter’s enemies are Lord Palethorpe and Lord Torringham. Walter is in jail because he cannot pay back his debt. However when Torringham lies about the amount and increases the debt to more than three times as much Walter is: ‘not inclined to contest the LAW with so powerful an adversary’ (Gooch, Sherwood Forest, Vol.1: 163) resigned to the fact that Torringham’s status as a lord and his wealth offer him protection and makes Walter who has neither vulnerable.
Palethorpe being a lord is used to deferential behaviour, and Walter’s forceful and confident verbal assault on him leaves him shocked and annoyed thinking Walter: ‘very impudent, and very ignorant of his rank’ (ibid, Vol.1: 86) Walter is regarded by Palethorpe as lower in rank, because he wears his ‘Robin Hood’ attire and so he looks like a peasant. However, Walter chooses that outfit as he chooses to live alone in the forest on the outskirts of society. Walter does not want to condescend to be associated with wealthy people from the fashionable world because he has experienced their life and was treated as inferior.
Walter views the majority of wealthy gentry as: ‘lawless plunderers, who because they are ornamented by titles, and endowed by prosperity, conceive themselves licensed to entrap the unwary, and to desolate and ruin those, whom their superiority should bind them to protect.’ (ibid, Vol.2: 108-109)
In the 18th century there was a marked division between the rich and the poor and Gooch shows through Walter’s eloquent speech that, the poor were neither protected by the rich nor protected from them.
In Sherwood Forest, Shelford highlights most forcibly the greed of the rich. This is most evident when he refuses to help the son of the late colonel Kinross by giving him money to help return to his family in Scotland. Colonel Kinross had been a friend of Shelford's and it was him that he owed his current fortune to. His refusal to help his former friend's son is set against him holding an ostentatious party showing he has the means to help but not the inclination.
This is not to say that Gooch portrays all wealthy people as corrupt or that there were not honest, hard working, wealthy men. Mr Bridgman, Anna’s second husband shows that the pessimistic French proverb was not always true. ‘un honnete homme n a jamais fait fortune’ translated means; ‘An honest man never made a fortune’ (ibid, Vol.3: 134-135) He has made a honest living and he is generous with it. However he is undoubtedly in the minority.
Overall the characters that are generous with their money are those who have less financial means to be and have previously been taken advantage of by someone wealthier. Walter’s father is described as having ‘a wonderful predilection for the poor, from an idea that the majority of them were abused by the rich: his bounties to them were therefore constant and liberal’ (ibid, Vol.1: 93) this is despite having little money himself.
Furthermore, Julian the Portuguese Jew who Walter befriends has been ill treated by society but acknowledges Walter’s kindness to him with money. Walter in turn uses this money unselfishly by helping poor Jews who live in London. Those who are wronged in society, whether rich or poor are the more generous with their money and more willing to help others.
Gooch illustrates that money can be used as a source for helping people, however, ‘generosity and ostentation are diametrically opposed; and that the heart which harbours the one, must be ever widely estranged from the other.’ (Gooch, Sherwood Forest, Vol.3: 151-152)
‘Money, like the weather, is the one topic on which every novel has an opinion.’ (Copeland, 1995: 7) and Gooch writes about money with the experience of knowing what it is like to live with the comfort of money and to live in want of it. 'Money and its making were characteristically female rather than male subjects in English fiction.' (Moers, 1985: 67) and this is because it was a topic which affected every woman’s life in the 18th century.
Gooch was robbed of her wealth through marriage. She gambled, lived in excess of her income, was conned out of money and jewels by people posing as her friends and repeatedly pawned her possessions to keep herself in money. She lived in luxurious surroundings with noble lovers but also knew what it was like to live in fear of creditors, and the shame of being in jail. With this life experience Gooch writes with authority on the various ways in which money can be used to manipulate, cheat and help people.
The themes that Gooch explores in association with money were not unique to her work. Depictions of characters surviving in; ‘grim economic conditions: sudden loss, unpredictable gain, ingratitude, treachery, and a world peopled by mean spirited characters from every rank.’ (Copeland, 1995:58) were characteristics that featured in a lot of women’s fiction in the 1790’s. However Gooch combines all the above and more to show a predominately negative portrayal of the affects of money and the importance of money to people’s lives in the 18th century.
Gooch represents money in the both Fancied Events and Sherwood Forest as being the overriding factor in determining a person's status in society. In the late 18th century there was a move away from the traditional concept of status being a hereditary privilege. There was an increase in the middle classes following the accessibility to education and the possibility to work up through the class system. However snobbery was even more evident fuelled on by the consumer revolution and the over arching materialism this introduced in society as people moved to the city and took part in leisurely activities.
In Sherwood Forest Gooch depicts a world which, when governed by ostentation is devoid of generosity. There does not seem to be a concept of having too much money and it is ambition and greed that drives the wealthy characters to take advantage of those of inferior status. There is a lawless abandonment that surrounds the noble characters because their money has bought them their status and power; ‘the possession of capital, as everyone recognized, was the key to the kingdom, and every rank yearned for its share’ (Copeland, 1995:21) The message that Gooch is depicting through Walter is that: ‘being lords does not…/ make you gentlemen.’ (Gooch, Sherwood Forest, Vol.3: 169) In other words having money and status does not correlate with decency and virtue.
In regards to the central female characters none of them actually work for a living. They live off of yearly settlement fees, family, friends, generous benefactors, and bequeathed money; in a word ‘women get money passively.’ (Copeland, 1995:63) However this is not to say that the women are not concerned with or affected by money. On the contrary Gooch shows how women with both high and low yearly competences survive in a patriarchal world. The women that are wealthy are shown to be at risk of being used for their money, whilst the women with little money are in danger of incurring debts, being bribed and have less chance of marrying well.
Money is also shown to be associated with city life and city life is shown to harbour pitfalls and corruption. It is the host to frivolities and fashion and depicted as superficial and brash in comparison to the nature and tranquillity of the countryside.
A particularly important idea that Gooch illustrates in these novels is that debt was an easily acquired burden, and a result of poor judgement rather than a reflection of a bad person. She believed that jail was too harsh a punishment and that on the whole society was too quick to judge and condemn those that make mistakes.
Gooch says that people should forgive those who err and that: ‘Those that cannot forgive, ought not to be forgiven’ (Gooch, Sherwood Forest Vol.2: 40) Gooch is critical of a society that condemns people who make mistakes. 18th century society is shown to have rigid rules and high expectations of people and in particular women, but it does not allow margin for error. This means that the good characters like Walter, Maria and Ellen who all make mistakes, pay a heavy price; isolation, death and ill heath respectively. However, they all continue to help out others in need. There is a tenuous link with Gooch in this respect as she also made mistakes but as her preface illustrated, she felt her writing was a public service and she should therefore be given more credit.
Gooch shows that the potential for people to help others financially is possible through the depiction of the poor virtuous characters that do so. However these characters have been taken advantage of by those who should have been protecting them. Gooch is critiquing the moneyed world because she lived in a time when there was too great a divide between rich and poor. Gooch experienced both extremes, she knew the worth of money, but more importantly the worth of being respected and valued. In her novel’s Fancied Events and Sherwood Forest she illustrates that a persons worth is not measured by their wealth but by their actions.
Money is represented in a negative way in Fancied Events and Sherwood Forest because Gooch is critiquing a society that was increasingly placing value and giving power to those with money. This rendered middle class and working class people vulnerable and dependant on a set of values, including the law, that were patriarchal and materialist.
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Gooch, Elizabeth Sarah Villa Real. (1788) An Appeal to the Public on the Conduct of Mrs Gooch, the Wife of William Gooch Esq. London: G. Kear